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Mets Do Well in Pagan Deal , Good Value With Francisco



By Mike Silva ~ December 6th, 2011. Filed under: New York Mets.

The Mets finally made some noise in Dallas as they signed Jon Rauch (4.85 ERA, 11 saves in Toronto last season) to a reasonable 1 year/$3.5 million dollar deal, but the real coup by Sandy Alderson was bringing in two players- RHP Ramon Ramirez and CF Andres Torres- for Angel Pagan, and signing RHP Frank Francisco.

Pagan had fallen out of favor with management due to his poor attitude. His chronic aches and pains raised eyebrows in the clubhouse as well. It’s one thing to lose when you leave it all out on the field; it’s another when you do so due to mental mistakes and lack of effort. Both were on display with Pagan last season.

The Mets accomplish two things in this deal. First, they probably save a little money by swapping the arbitration eligible Pagan, estimated to make around $5 million this season, for Torres’ $2.2 million and Ramirez’s $1.6 million. Both are arbitration eligible so even with a 20% raise there is a bit of a savings.

Next, they bring in two players who were part of a winning culture in San Francisco. Torres is a great story as he finally established himself as a regular in 2010 at the age of 32. He hit .268 with 26 stolen bases and 16 HRs. He does strikeout quite a bit (95 times in just 348 at-bats last season), but he plays a pretty good outfield.

Fangraphs ran a story on him in 2010, in which Torres talks about how he was originally “a high school sprint star in Puerto Rico, excelling in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400 relay. Baseball was an afterthought until a scout handed him a business card during his senior year.” He was drafted by the Tigers in 1998 in the 4th round. He relied on his speed to get him to the big leagues, but it wasn’t until he worked on the fundamentals of hitting did he turn the corner. Hence the fact he was a late bloomer.

He suffered from leg injuries last season, which limited him to just 95 games and a .221 batting average. Whether Torres can hit enough to play every day is still up in the air, but at the very least they have someone who will work hard and play defense; traits that were not Angel Pagan‘s forte. Don’t forget they have Kirk Nieuwenhuis in Buffalo to push Torres as well.

Originally I thought Ramirez could close on this club, but the 2-year/$12 million dollar deal to Frank Francisco gives the Mets a 7-8-9 of Rauch, Ramirez, and Francisco- not a bad trio. As a matter of fact, it’s a combo that would have helped last year’s club get into the 85 win range.

For his career, Ramirez has a 3.16 ERA and 7.7 K’s/9 with a 3.7 BB/9. The walks are a little high, but it didn’t stop him from producing great numbers with the Giants. In two years there his ERA was 2.07. He also was pretty decent during his AL East stint in Boston.

If you are a Mets fan that is crying over Pagan, don’t. I thought he had the potential to produce similar numbers to a young Johnny Damon. We saw flashes of this throughout his second stint in New York. He never stayed healthy, nor did he seem interested in improving on the fundamentals of the game. His embarrassing bathroom incident in Philadelphia was the last straw in my book. It’s a shame because, when he’s on, I think he could produce offensive numbers similar to Jose Reyes. Torres won’t do that, but watching him in the Showtime film “The Franchise” you could see he was the antithesis of Pagan: a hard worker and winning ballplayer. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stay healthy in 2011. A change of scenery might do both these centerfielders some good.

***

Mets fans were treated to another gift just minutes after the Pagan deal was announced. Sandy Alderson signed Frank Francisco to a 2-year/$12 million dollar deal. Considering the big money that relievers were getting thus far, this is actually pretty reasonable.

Francisco will be a sweat box out there. He strikes out more than a batter per inning (9.9 for his career), but walks just a shade under 4 (3.9). He is best known for throwing a folding chair into the crowd in a game against Oakland in 2004. The incident escalated when Rangers pitcher Doug Brocail charged from the Rangers’ bullpen to confront a fan who, members of the Rangers later claimed, had been heckling him about his stillborn child and using racial slurs. There is no doubt the Mets are getting an emotional player in the mold of K-Rod. This is a concern, but I am sure Terry Collins and his staff can handle it.

He was the closer in Texas before Neftali Feliz. His 2011 in Toronto was mixed, with a poor first half (5.92 ERA) and outstanding second half (1.37). In Texas, he produced a 3.75 ERA in six seasons.

Francisco actually reminds me of Armando Benitez. Good stuff, walks a few too many, and is prone to meltdowns and the long ball. I do predict that Francisco’s 2 year/$12 million dollar deal will be a better value than Miami’s 3- year/$27 million dollar deal with Heath Bell. Closers are all mercurial, and the only one that differentiates himself is Mariano Rivera.

***

None of this should ease the pain of losing Jose Reyes to the Marlins. I do think the Mets have good players on this roster and a minor league system that could produce some talent over the next couple of years. Will they win a division with this team? Unless things change drastically, no. But I can see them being a thorn in the side of most teams and competing every night under Terry Collins. Conceivably they could win 80 games and still finish in the basement. In the end, bringing in winning ballplayers like Torres could help change the culture, which is still reeling since the ’07 collapse.

***

The Best part about Jon Rauch coming to town is that Keith Hernandez can now call him the “wookiee” during SNY telecasts. This, of course, is a Star Wars reference to Chewbacca. During his Washington days, Rauch had long hair flowing all over the place and the unkempt look conjured up images of the popular Star Wars character.

Rauch didn’t have a great year in Toronto, but he filled in admirably for Joe Nathan in Minnesota (3.12, 21 saves) in 2010. They did import Matt Capps later in the season to take the closer job, but Rauch/Capps were a decent 8th-9th combo for Ron Gardenhire in 2010.

Rauch profiles better as a 6th or 7th inning guy. I think he is miscast as a closer, but in this bullpen he can take on the role that he was successful in while in Washington.

***

Before you go crazy about how they could have spent this money on Reyes, the Mets didn’t extend themselves more than 2 years in any of these deals. The Mets have payroll issues, but it’s clear they didn’t want to have any part of a 6-year deal for Reyes. I disagree on a few front, which we have discussed numerous times, but I can see their point.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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6 Responses to Mets Do Well in Pagan Deal , Good Value With Francisco

  1. Russ Cress

    I can’t disagree with Mike more on this one. In fact, these moves are positively baffling to me.

    1. When a team is broke, the last 2 places you spend money on are the bullpen & the bench. Bullpens can be built on the cheap and then re-built on the fly. Look at Tampa last year. It’s easy to find middle relievers. The Mets could have waited and got guys on the cheap or even on minor league deals in January who are just as good as Rauch & Francisco. Look at where teams have been finding relievers from, there have been good ones from Japan, the Rule 5 draft, retread starters, and for example, the Yankees found Al Aceves in Mexico. There is no need to pay Rauch 3.5 million to pitch the 7th inning. You can fill a bullpen on the cheap creatively.

    2. Every year over 1/3 of all closers who start the year in the role lose their jobs. Francisco & Rauch have fallen into that category multiple times for a reason. I’ve seen Francisco a lot, he scares no one, has anger issues and gets hurt all the time. There is no reason to invest 12 million dollars in that guy. These two guys have been closers by default, not closers due to talent and reliability. You don’t pay for default guys who just happened to close which leads to having save totals due to circumstance. Just because their teams had no one better, doesn’t mean they are good and worth investing in.

    3. I like the Ramierez pick up, but the CF swap makes no sense except as a salary dump. Torres is 4 years older than Pagan, hit .220 and was a lead off hitter with a .312 OBP. He also was going to be non-tendered if not for this trade. Pagan not only has better numbers last year (.262 to .221; 32 SB to 19) but by all accounts has a higher upside potential. If the deal was a salary dump, why then turn around and overpay Frank Francisco?

    4. If you are having a “re-building’ year in 2012, why bring in 12 million dollars worth of mediocre relievers? Wouldn’t those 3 roster spots be better used in developing kids? Isn’t this the chance to give someone an opportunity? Hell, go out and give Joel Zumaya a million bucks if he looks good at his workout audition next week and let him close. No one else is going to give him a closer job right off the bat, so he may have jumped at the chance to join the Mets. He’s 27 and throws gas. There is upside there, there’s none with these guys.

    5. Then there is the Reyes factor. Now, no one expects them to spend the full 80 million bucks they saved on a bunch of top guys. But then where is the plan, to use some of that to fill needs with guys who fit their team? The Dodgers are a mess but they clearly have a plan. They signed 2 mediocre SPs, but Harang & Capuano were guys who were solid middle of the rotation guys who pitched in big time pitchers parks. The Dodgers identified that and realized that they translate to their park since Chavez Ravine is a big time pitchers park as well. As a result, of those moves and the other veterans they brought in on short term deals, the Dodgers now look like they can be an 81-85 win team, compete and give their fan base some hope. The Mets clearly don’t seem to have a similar plan. They seem to have written off 2012 and then they will complain and act shocked when no one shows up and they lose money. They’ve gone about this half way which never works. Either trade off all the high priced guys and rebuild with kids or have a plan to reload and compete. The Mets don’t seem to know what they want to do, a rebuilding team does not need to commit 12 million bucks to lock up Frank Francisco to close for 2 years. The Twins gave Matt Caps 1 year @ 4.5 million. If he’s worth that, then how is Francisco worth 12 for 2?

    I don’t get any of these moves. I don’t see value, I don’t see need, I don’t see upside. What I do see is another thing added to the list of things that were better in the 80′s….Sandy Alderson.

  2. Russ Cress

    One more thing…earlier today the Blue Jays shocked the world with their trade for Sergio Santos. That outside the box thinking landed the a 28 year old closer in his prime that is under team control for 6 years, coming off of a year where he had 30 saves in a big market situation.

    Don’t you think that if the Mets would have called, then the Sox would have rather had traded him to the NL?

    That’s a move with upside, I wonder if they even checked in on guys like Bailey, Street, Soria, Melancon or the Artist Formally Known as Leo Nunez

    I’m also pretty sure they could have held on to that 12 mil and used it to get Rafael Soriano, then have him close for the same 2 years

  3. Mike Silva

    Mets did check in on Bailey but Billy Beane’s asking price was too high (Daniel Murphy was one name I believe).

    One thing to keep in mind w/ Francisco is his contract is reasonable enough that he could be traded next season. Same for Rauch.

    The Mets bullpen was the reason they finished under .500 last year

  4. John

    Russ, on the one hand you advocate rebuilding the bullpen on the cheap and on the other you suggest going after established closers. Pick one strategy, or don’t criticize. I personally think both approaches suck. Minaya made a huge mistake by giving K-Rod all that money when he could have got 3 guys with potential to close at 4 mil a pop. I think Alderson did that by getting 2 closer quality guys and an established set up man (Rauch) for what they paid K-Rod. With Parnell and Beato, this bullpen could be tough.

  5. Stu B

    Too bad that they didn’t pick up a lefty to pair with Byrdak.

  6. Russ Cress

    John, I wasn’t playing it both ways. I was suggesting that a team with limited resources shouldn’t use them for the bullpen. Quality bullpen arms can be found on the cheap. My comment about the other guys was meant partially tongue in cheek, especially the Soriano joke. Plus, a lot of those guys I mentioned aren’t even expensive.

    The problem is the two guys you brought in are not “closer quality guys”. Each of them were default closers who lost that gig several times. Trust me, no one has ever said “we need to get to these guys soon because if Frank Francisco comes in, it’s over”. That bullpen will not be “tough”. They were both part of the Toronto bullpen last year and who ever said anything positive about Toronto’s bullpen? Rauch had an ERA of 4.95, for a closer or even a set up guy that is awful. Francisco is terribly inconsistent, prone to wild stretches and has behavior issues. I don’t see the need to give him 2 years. Capps got 1/4.5. Last year, a bunch of similar guys got 1 year deals and more comparable RPs will get 1 yr deals this year. How is Frank Francisco any better than any of those guys to justify a 2 year deal? Just because a guy gets saves doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best RP. Closers have a tendency to be overrated.

    A bad team has an opportunity to develop a closer. Look at what Houston did with Mark Melancon last year. Why not find a guy like that? Why not wait and see what Zumaya looks like at his work out next week? No one else will offer him a closer job so the Mets could have had a leg up on the competition there. Why not find a set up guy with good stuff and make him a closer? There’s just no need to invest limited resources in past saves with poor peripherals and especially on a guy with attitude issues. Haven’t you guys been down that road before?

    I just don’t think Sandy is fully invested in the Mets future. These aren’t moves indicative of someone with a long term master plan. There’s just no upside to these guys, what does it matter how many games they save in 2012 if you aren’t going to contend until 2015 at least? It’s like not trading Reyes. What’s the point of not trading him if you are not going to sign him? Does anyone truly believe that they wouldn’t have gotten back more for him last summer than whomever the sandwich pick & 3rd round pick turn out to be?

    None of these moves actually build towards anything. All their moves from the players to the stadium stuff, to their ticket strategy make no sense. There seems to be no plan for the future in Queens

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